Faythe Thureen, UND Norwegian Instructor, rejects Engelstad donation

January 22, 2001

To: Charles Kupchella, President
John Ettling, VPAA
Al Fivizzani, Dean, A & S
Walter Tschacher, Chair, Languages

From: Faythe Thureen, Norwegian Instructor

Re: Engelstad Donation to the Nordic Initiative

In my letter of Nov. 22, 2000, to the Grand Forks Herald, I indicated that it was my position that Engelstad donations to the Norwegian program should not be accepted if the Fighting Sioux nickname were to be retained. My explanation was, "Even the perception of one ethnic group building at the expense of another is completely unacceptable in a university setting."

As recent news reports indicate that Mr. Engelstad has transferred $261,000 to the Nordic Initiative, and the objectionable nickname has not been dropped, I would like to re-emphasize my position. Furthermore, I would like to recommend to you as UND administrators that no Engelstad donations be used to support any Norwegian programs at the university until the Fighting Sioux nickname and logos have been dropped. I would certainly not consider teaching in a program supported by these funds.

It is clear that accepting these monies would be detrimental to the academic integrity of the Norwegian programs. I am currently preparing my annual report to the Norwegian Department of Foreign Affairs. It had been my hope that by this time the nickname in question would have been dropped, and we could have pursued plans for the Norway Seminar, sponsored annually by Norway's Department of Foreign Affairs, to be held at UND. At present that is impossible. Can you imagine the outcry of Norwegian politicians and educators, as well as that of professors of Norwegian language and literature in the USA, if they were to visit our campus and see evidence of the new logo on the Engelstad arena and elsewhere. It would be an international embarrassment that I prefer to avoid.

When I indicated the position of the Norwegian program in Languages on the nickname, UND's recent guest, Gunnar Skaug, President of Norway's Odelsting, said, "I agree with you 100%." For most politicians and educators in post WWII Norway, as well as the general population, even the hint of white Aryan supremacy is to be rejected.

I worked hard to maintain and build the Norwegian program. The main reason for doing so was to continue to provide UND and the community with an informed voice of academic integrity in Norwegian and Norwegian-American issues and activities. During this nickname controversy, I have been advised by the UND Foundation as to what position to take and what not to say. This has been of great concern to me, as the advice has been at odds with both my research and my personal ethics. With great sadness, I have come to the conclusion that it is preferable not to have a Norwegian language program than to have one that encourages negative manifestations of ethnocentricity.

President Kupchella, thank you for demonstrating courage and leadership in dealing with this issue. The process you conducted defines the essence of "university." Despite the fact that this process was short circuited, I am confident that history will validate your contributions.